Is it too early to start talking about Christmas? Not if you want to secure an amazing trip to one of Europe’s most enchanting winter wonderlands.
Travel across the continent and you’ll discover a spectacular selection of Christmas markets, with beautifully decorated log cabins and inviting beer halls, where you can cosy up with a warming glass of mulled wine.
But Christmas markets aren’t all about beer and bratwurst; they’re also the perfect place to pick up handmade gifts, ornate decorations and tasty sweet treats for your seasonal hamper.
Here’s the best Christmas markets in Europe, complete with jingle bells, mulled wine and gifts galore.
1. Munich, Germany
Along with Berlin and Cologne, Munich boasts one of the Continent’s best-loved Christmas markets.
Just the mention of the German city’s annual festive bash is enough to conjure up images of snow-topped lodges and glowing market stalls.
And if that doesn’t get you in the Christmas spirit, we guarantee the aroma of roasted nuts, grilled German sausages and spiced cider certainly will.
TOP TIP: It goes without saying that the price of a getaway can increase significantly during the school holidays. If you’re going with your loved one or a group of friends, book your trip during school term time.
2. Mt Pilatus, Switzerland
Europe’s highest Christmas market is also one of its cutest. Situated a shade under 7000 feet above sea level, it’s one of the world’s only markets where you can follow your shopping with a spot of snowboarding.
With a firm focus on handcrafted items, this is the perfect place to pick up all your stocking fillers. Get Mum a beeswax candle and your younger brother more handmade gingerbread than he can eat.
TOP TIP: Well known all around the world as one of the most beautiful places in the world, once all the Christmas shopping is done, you can enjoy scenic views all over the snowy Swiss Alps that will certainly get you in the mood for the big day.
3. Lille, France
A giant Ferris wheel is the centrepiece of Lille’s dazzling Christmas market, which takes place in the picturesque Place Rhiour town square.
The French city sums up the magic of Christmas, with rows and rows of fantastic stalls, where you’ll find everything from artworks to hand crafted wooden toys.
After deciding what to include in Santa’s sack, pay a visit to one of the many bars or eateries to enjoy authentic French cuisine – baked Camembert is a must – and a well-deserved glass of champagne.
TOP TIP: Flexibility is key when trying to secure a cheap Christmas holiday. Thursdays and Fridays are two of the most popular days to fly. If you can, travel during the mid-week.
4. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Croatia’s sun-soaked Dalmatian Coast may not seem like the most obvious destination for a trip to the Christmas markets, but the region certainly rises to the occasion during the winter months.
One of the best features of Dubrovnik’s Christmas markets is the fabulous decorations and displays, which illuminate the city’s historic landmarks and UNESCO World Heritage sites – even the city’s 13th century city walls get a makeover.
The market itself boasts a vast array of stalls and shops, specialising in handmade gifts, goodies and authentic Croatian food, like arancini and kontonjata (a sweet Christmas candy made with quince).
TOP TIP: Looking for a bargain break? Compare the cost of flying from your local airport with other UK airports; you’ll be surprised by the how much you could save.
5. Stockholm, Sweden
The UK’s bizarre climate means you can never predict a white Christmas. Fortunately, snow is almost guaranteed in the Swedish capital.
Stockholm’s Christmas markets are a must if you’re looking to add a little Scandinavian magic to your winter holiday; with traditional treats like Swedish meatballs and pear cider all on offer.
Combine your visit to Stockholm with a tour of the city’s best sights and attractions, including the Nobel Museum, the Riddarholm Church and the fantastic ABBA museum, a tribute to four of the nation’s biggest stars.
TOP TIP: Make the most of your hand baggage allowance to avoid paying extra for additional bags. Most airlines often allow you to carry a small suitcase or cabin bag with you.
6. Madrid, Spain
Looking for something a little different? Why not put a bit of a Spanish twist on your Christmas markets holiday with a trip to Madrid.
Spain’s bustling capital is a great choice for a winter holiday; it’s also relatively mild considering the time of year. The city is transformed during Christmas time, with impressive displays and plenty of festive sparkle.
Madrid is a fantastic choice for foodies, with a delectable selection of Spanish cuisine, mulled wine and Spanish lagers. Swap the turkey for chorizo, and the Christmas pudding for tasty churros.
TOP TIP: Aside from the Christmas markets, Madrid is packed full of must-see attractions and places of interest, including the iconic Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, the home of Real Madrid. You can often save money on your ticket by booking in advance.
7. Berlin, Germany
Don’t miss Winter World on Potsdamer Platz in the city centre which will be transformed into a vast winter wonderland with Europe’s biggest toboggan run.
And its the perfect place to find authentic mulled wine and hearty bratwurst along with other seasonal treats at the Christmas Market at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
8. Verona, Italy
Every year, from the middle of November until January, the Italian city is illuminated by hundreds of lights as it plays host to a big Christmas market offering hand-made decorations and German specialities, along with regional food.
And you should head to the Arena di Verona for a truly stunning spectacle of over 400 nativity scenes displayed against a backdrop of lights and music.
9. Three countries Christmas Market Tour
If you can’t choose just one – why not do three. Compare the lights, sounds and smells of Christmas Markets across three different countries: Belgium’s oldest and largest Christmas market, Liège; joyful Aachen in Germany and Valkenburg’s unique cave grotto markets in the Netherlands.
10. Christmas Cruise
Forget those frustrating baggage restrictions and hop on board a boat for your Christmas market festivities – And you can start your Christmas shopping in the on board duty-free store where the currency is in sterling.
The Christmas markets of Bruges, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Hamburg are the stuff of festive dreams, and all are accessible via a cruise, meaning that you can bring home as many unique hand-crafted goodies as you can manage to carry back on board.
11. Paris, France
Mix chic shopping in the French capital with visits to its magical Christmas markets selling traditional produced and arts and crafts.
With over 350 wooden chalets, the market at La Defense (metro Grande Arche de la Defense) is the biggest one, while Champs-Elysees claims to host the city’s most beautiful one.
And for traditional French Christmas sweet treats head to the market at the foot of Montparnesse Tower.
12. Innsbruck, Austria
From the middle of November until January, the Tirolean capital’s Old Town market is a truly festive sight.
Surrounded by medieval houses, Christmas tree lights twinkle beneath the city’s famous Golden Roof with the snow-dusted Nordkette mountains as a seasonal backdrop you can browse round more than 60 stalls displaying wooden toys and hand-carved nativity scenes.